The mix CD is dead. And why shouldn't it be? With certain haggard franchises now ambling complacently into double figures and podcasts and downloadable live sets offering near infinite possibilities, you can't help but think that it's only a matter of time before they're completely obsolete. How can they compete with performances by every working DJ playing tracks fresh from the plant, selections unhampered by licensing restrictions and it all coming at the low, low cost of free?
With The Grandfather Paradox Henrik Schwarz, Âme and Dixon tackle the mix CD problem by avoiding the new altogether. The techno they've chosen is old, and some of their selections probably don't even have a copyright anymore. Taking its name from the proposed paradox which refutes the possibility of time travel, considering a time traveller could theoretically go back in time, kill their grandfather and negate their own existence, this hasn't prevented the Innervisions gang from attempting similarly complex feats of time-juggling. The subtitle further spells out their intention: "A Journey Through 50 years of Minimalistic Music" explores minimalism as a concept, linking house and techno with pioneering minimal(istic) music of all genres. What results is a truly time-defying melting pot, where Steve Reich's gradual processes link arms with clanging kosmische chug and motor city machine music, the DJs zipping through epochs like Marty McFly.
The quartet's idea of what constitutes "minimalistic music" is broad, but the selections are never intentionally obtuse, nor delivered like a history lesson. Indeed, the joy in The Grandfather Paradox is that Âme and co. approach this as house DJs, paying meticulous attention to sequencing and investing the most academically stripped-bare productions with disco sweat and swagger. They delight in matching incongruities like the clinical razors of Ø's "Atomit" with Conrad Schnitzler's velvet synths, or Cymande's naked congas and harmonies with Patrick Moraz's hazy elektronische squall.
The development from Reich's opening "Electric Counterpoint" through to Liquid Liquid's "Lock Groove" is exquisitely balanced, linking New York loft-academia with contemporaneous punk-funk (themselves never far removed), and the final third—from Hawtin's mix of La Funk Mob through to Yusef Lateef's "The Three Faces of Bala" and Robert Hood's "Minus"—is nail-bitingly tense. That we end with the ragtag street rhythms of Moondog shows just what these boys can pack in.
In any selection this broad there's bound to be quibbles over absences. Particularly on the unmixed second disc, I'd like to have seen even earlier examples of minimalism, Satie's furniture music perhaps, or an ol' timey fiddle dance such as "Indian War Whoop," but this unsolicited advice is subjective and irrelevant, as Henrik Schwarz, Âme and Dixon's project is clearly expressed. Perhaps Optimo could have pulled this off, but I've yet to hear a mix both as diverse and streamlined as this.
CD1 - Mixed
01. Steve Reich & Pat Metheny - Electric Counterpoint - Fast (Movement 3)
02. Etienne Jaumet - Repeat After Me (Ame Mix)
03. Kenneth Bager - Fragment Elevenà The Day After Yesterday Pt.1
04. Liquid Liquid - Lock Groove (Out)
05. Cymande - For Baby Oh
06. Patrick Moraz - Metamorphoses 1st Movement (Live)
07. To Rococo Rot - Testfeld
08. Mathematics - Blue Water
09. I:Cube - Acid Tablet
10. O - Atomit
11. Conrad Schnitzler - Electrocon 11
12. Green Pickles feat. Billy Lo & M. Pittman - Feedback
13. La Funk Mob - Motor Bass Gets Phunked Up (Richie Hawtin's Electrophunk Mix)
14. John Carpenter - The President Is Gone
15. Yusef Lateef - The Three Faces Of Bala
16. Robert Hood - Minus
17. Raymond Scott - Bass-Line Generator
18. Moondog - Invocation
CD2 - Unmixed
01. Conrad Schnitzler - Elektrocon 11
02. Steve Reich & Pat Metheny - Electric Counterpoint - Fast (Movement 3)
03. Liquid Liquid - Lock Groove (Out)
04. To Rococo Rot - Testfeld
05. Patrick Moraz - Metamorphoses 1st Movement (Live)
06. Young Marble Giants - N.i.t.a
07. Kenneth Bager - Fragment Elevenà The Day After Yesterday Pt.1
08. Arthur Russell - Make 1, 2
09. John Carpenter - The President Is Gone
10. Robert Hood - Minus
11. Raymond Scott - Bass-Line Generator
12. Pyrolator - November Muhlheim
13. Cymande - For Baby Oh
14. Can - Sunday Jam